Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
In order to respond to ecological or environmental challenges, which are part of our Society’s mission as emphasized by General Congregation 35, a Task Force on Jesuit mission and ecology was established in 2010.
Due to lack of space in this Bulletin, I offer only a synthesis of a document published by the Task Force on 22 October 2010.
A reflection on our mission in the world and such environmental challenges as climate change and lack of good governance in exploiting natural and mineral resources is crucial to interpreting the signs of the times, in dealing with issues that challenge the future of humankind.
Our charism and vocation call us to renew relations, to challenge intellectual and spiritual commitment and contemporary formation, to profess a deep engagement with creation as co-creators sharing in the fullness of life. We need to identify and act through healing centers of response, with lay collaborators and movements, locally, regionally and universally, connecting and participating in the broader search for respect, responsibility and accountability for the environment.
(From the point of view of Japan, especially after the series of destructive earthquakes and tsunami, the use of nuclear energy not directly touched in this document has emerged as the most important ecological crisis for us here.)
Understanding Jesuit mission in the context of the ecological crisis
At the last three General Congregations our Jesuit mission was defined as “the service of faith and the promotion of justice” indissolubly united. It was also stated that “dialogue with persons who differ from us in culture and religion … is integral to our service of Christ’s mission.
Care for creation: the development of a new dimension in Jesuit mission
Concern about ecology has been growing in the Society for the past 15 to 20 years. In response to GC 34 Decree 20 (1995), Fr General Peter – Hans Kolvenbach directed the Social Justice Secretariat to prepare the document We Live in a Broken World: Reflections on Ecology. In the introduction to the document, Fr Kolvenbach acknowledges that GC 33 (1983) was the first General Congregation to give “authoritative expression” to the Society’s environmental concern. In 1993 – 94 some Provincial Congregations passed postulates on ecology. GC 34 took up these postulates but could not treat the issues in depth. After GC 34 and during the years preceding GC 35 (2008), social marginality and ecological disasters were experienced as closely interrelated.
The issue of ecology and the environment was selected at GC 35 as one of the important apostolic themes to be reflected upon by a working group for presentation to the Congregation. Various ways in which the issue of ecology could be treated were discussed. The group that made the presentation to the Congregation proposed that, instead of having a separate decree on Ecology, the theme could be treated as part of the decree on Mission, which was being prepared by a small working group.
This suggestion was accepted. As a result, Decree 3 on Our Mission incorporates the theme of ecology under the broader theme of ‘Reconciliation’ in its three-fold dimension: reconciliation with God, with others, and with creation.
GC 35: a triptych of relationships
To the often‐asked question as to whether GC 35 says anything new regarding the relationship between ecology and our fundamental charism as defined by GC 34, the answer must clearly be yes. There are two significant departures from the way the theme of ecology was treated before GC 35. First, GC 35 makes a comparison between reconciliation and right relationships, that is, it introduces the idea of reconciliation into the faith – justice dyad; and second, it establishes an intrinsic and indissoluble unity among three types of relationships (with God, with others, and with creation).
On the basis of a novel understanding of a “right” or “just” relationship, Decree 3 presents a synthesis of the Jesuit mission as the call to establish right or just relationships with God, with other human beings, and with creation (earth) (D 3, no. 18). Two insights may clarify the novelty of this way of presenting Jesuit mission.
First, our concern for ecology and creation has to be seen primarily in the context of two other sets of relationships: with God and with others. In other words, restoration of a new relationship with the earth – or with either of the other two – must be seen as a consequence of our commitment to establish a just relationship with God (our commitment to faith), and with other human beings (our commitment to justice). Second, the decree makes it amply clear that the fulfillment of our mission requires that the rightness (the justice component) of the three types of relationship is actualized simultaneously.
In analyzing the relationship between these three sets of relationships, it is useful to consider the common ground shared between, on the one hand, the right relationship with God and with creation and, on the other, the right relationship with others and with creation. An attack on the integrity of creation becomes a glaring disrespect of God’s gift and hence ultimately of God. Destroying the environment has a profound impact on the exercise of human rights and on the poor. Despite its concise nature, Decree 3 not only moves ahead to integrate our concern for creation into our charism, but also points to concrete ways of simultaneously influencing our relationships with God (faith component) and with others (justice component).
Destroying the environment has a profound impact on the exercise of human rights and on the poor. Despite its concise nature, Decree 3 not only moves ahead to integrate our concern for creation into our charism, but also points to concrete ways of simultaneously influencing our relationships with God (faith component) and with others (justice component).
Reconciliation with creation and the faith dimension of our mission
Biblical reflection: Creation and the Paschal mystery
According to the Old Testament tradition, creation is always an object of praise (Ps 104: 24) because nature, the work of God’s creative action, “was very good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). Creation is God’s gift to us, but once wounded by sin, the entire world is called to undergo a radical purification (2 Pet 3:10). The mystery of the Incarnation, the entry of Jesus Christ into the history of the world, culminates in the Paschal Mystery, where Christ creates anew the relationship between God, human beings, and the created world. Neither the “pretension of exercising unconditional dominion over things,” nor a reductionist and utilitarian ideology that views the natural world as an object of endless consumption, nor a conception of the environment based on eliminating “the ontological and axiological difference between men and other living beings” can be accepted. We may need, therefore, a certain caution in interpreting correctly various models that are proposed to explain the relationship between humankind and the environment.
The fact is, however, that “many human beings, at all levels, have continued to abuse nature and destroy God’s beautiful world … There is an irresponsible degradation and senseless destruction of the earth which is ‘our mother’.” Looking at the ‘signs of the times’ is one way of experiencing the need for this reconciliation. It is ultimately through our faith that we feel a deep sorrow when we see the destruction of God’s gift and the suffering of people. We are led to ask ourselves: “Could we not have acted differently?
It is from a belief in the God of the cosmos, in the suffering Christ, Christ obedient unto death, and in the indwelling Spirit that we are called to undergo a metanoia (change of heart) and to become agents of change ourselves. From the goodness of nature and the ethical vision of right relations we gain the spiritual energy to live lives of reconciliation between God, his creatures, and ourselves. We are no longer limited to the original Creator’s acts as a force for good, or to the conventional legal and ethical demands where we always fail, but we are drawn in obedience and placed with Christ to act selflessly towards all of creation.
The response of the Church: Catholic Social Teaching
The body of Catholic social wisdom or the doctrine of the Church on social issues has developed a set of practical principles to establish right relationships with creation. Care for the environment is, first and foremost, based on recognizing it as a common good destined for all. This perspective is important if we are to acknowledge the “closeness of the various parts that bind together the ecosystem,” our responsibility to future generations, and “the need to respect the integrity and the cycles of nature because natural resources are limited and some are not renewable.
The principle of the universal destination of all goods implies that “they must be shared equitably, in accordance with justice and charity,” and this applies naturally to water. The preferential option for the poor makes us acknowledge that “the environmental crisis and poverty are connected by a complex and dramatic set of causes” and that “the present environmental crisis affects those who are poorest.” Solidarity should move political leaders, particularly of developing countries, to promote “trade policies that are favorable to their people.” Again, solidarity should move leaders from developed countries to transfer and “exchange … scientific and technical knowledge to developing countries.” In the end, the ecological crises we face call us to adopt new lifestyles which “should be inspired by sobriety, temperance and self‐discipline at both the individual and social levels.
Ignatian Spirituality and Care for Creation
Ignatian spirituality, and more specifically the Spiritual Exercises, provides a deep source of inspiration to develop new relationships with creation. The first consideration proposed by Ignatius is the Principle and Foundation. While the tendency in the past has been to look at creation in an anthropocentric manner, we understand today that creation is “both a resource from God as well as an avenue to God.” We are asked to discern carefully our relationship to creation and to become indifferent – that is, to develop an internal freedom to see created things in their relationship to God. A newer and deeper understanding of the theology of creation leads us to the realization that creation is the first great work of redemption and is the foundational saving act of God. Redemption, then, is seen within the context of creation.
The meditations on the Incarnation and the Nativity emphasize that the created world is the place to experience God. By being born in a concrete place (Nazareth), Jesus Christ shares with us a deep relationship with creation, with life, nature, and the air we breathe. From the Trinitarian perspective underpinning this contemplation, we are called to live in kinship and communication with creation.
The meditation of the Two Standards helps us to face the deceits of “riches, honor and pride.” It is difficult not to feel confronted also by the implications of greed and over – consumption, by the use (and misuse) of natural resources and land, and by the incredible generation of waste. The invitation to join the standard of Christ is a call to simplicity, to humility, and to finding God in creation. In the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love Ignatius asks the retreatant to consider how God dwells and labors in creation. Following Ignatius’ directive that “love ought to be expressed more in deeds than in words,” we need to make an offering of ourselves with great generosity to heal our relationship with creation.
Reconciliation with creation and the justice – dimension of our mission
Linkages between reconciliation and justice
In the recent past, the concept of reconciliation has assumed greater significance in the field of conflict resolution. We need to start asking the following question: Is justice possible without reconciliation? In other words, in a reconciliation process, how do we handle past injustices so that they are neither forgotten nor allowed to fester?
The term “reconciliation” means literally a call-to-be-again-together – a call addressed to two parties in conflict, to two enemies, to develop a new relationship.
Reconciliation, theologically considered, is the restoration of broken relationships between God and people. God initiates this process of restoration, humans respond to God’s initiative through faith, and the outcome is the rebuilding of the human community as a new creation. For Christians, therefore, hope for reconciliation is closely linked with faith in Christ’s saving work among us. It is to be noted that an excessively spiritual interpretation of reconciliation with God has often led to an individualistic and subjective approach to life.
The term “establishing right relationships” is equivalent to establishing relationships based on justice. In order to understand the relation between the terms “reconciliation” and “justice,” the term “justice” should be understood in its widest sense. By this is meant the three traditional dimensions of justice: commutative justice requiring reciprocal relations among individuals or private groups established on a basis of equality, retributive justice requiring compensation for injustices committed, and finally restorative justice.
Expanding the relationship between reconciliation and justice, David Hollenbach says that reconciliation cannot be strictly reduced to a spiritual reality without any change in the actual hard realities. Reconciliation extends beyond one-on-one interpersonal relationships to the political realm by initiating restorative justice. Restorative justice is forward looking – it operates from the perspective of “anticipatory justice.” It seeks the future reconstruction of a community by repairing relationships and reintegrating unjustly excluded persons into civic life. It guarantees that all members of society can actively participate in social life, both by contributing to the common good and by sharing in the common good to the degree necessary to protect their human dignity. Reconciliation, therefore, in no way suggests a lessening of the commitment to justice. Neither does it advocate premature forgiveness. Reconciliation requires justice, though it can go beyond justice in the granting of forgiveness.
Linkages between reconciliation and justice
The hard facts reveal that the right to life of many poor and marginalized communities is at stake in different parts of the world, particularly in the developing countries. If the ultimate goal of reconciliation is to build a new covenantal relationship with creation based on the principle of restorative justice, but not losing sight of retributive justice where needed, we need to ask the question: What are the challenges here and now? How can we protect, sustain and promote the land – species – human – planet – universe continuum as comprising dynamic, transformative life processes? The basic realization is that creation “suffers” the plundering of ecosystems and has been called by Leonard Boff the “new poor” crying out for our attention. We need to distinguish the role played by various actors in this ecological crisis.
We start with the group of people at the margins, the poor. Nicholas Stern, well known for his research on the impact of the economics of climate change, maintains that the two great challenges of the 21st century are overcoming poverty and managing climate change, not as separate aspects but intimately linked in mutual interdependence. The mechanisms that ultimately link human development and poverty reduction to climatic changes are now more evident, showing the links with employment and livelihoods, health, gender, and security.
To give just one example, rural women are heavily dependent on the natural environment for their livelihoods, which are directly affected by climate – related damage or scarcity of natural resources.
The second type of people comprises those who live at the center, the rich. People at the center are those who aggravate the ecological crisis through excessive consumption and huge production of waste. The ferocious demand for food and other resources from the North has led to dramatic changes. The world is rapidly converting nature into agricultural land to meet growing demands, draining rivers of all water to produce food, and polluting water with pesticides and fertilizer. Food production demands a huge amount of water.
People of the third type comprise the growing middle class, the neo-rich. Liberalization of the economy expanded the horizon of new opportunities and ushered in higher standards of living to those who could afford it. In India, for example, the social and political changes of the 1980s and 1990s, in which the middle classes were such significant actors, were associated, too, with a shift in their values. The phenomenal growth of the middle class with its clamor for more can be seen in many developing countries. The World Bank estimates that the global middle class is likely to grow from 430 million in 2000 to 1.15 billion in 2030. A look at the geographical distribution of this middle class is striking. In 2000, developing countries were home to 56 per cent of the global middle class, but by 2030 that figure is expected to reach 93 per cent. China and India alone will account for two-thirds of the expansion, with China contributing 52 per cent of the increase and India 12 per cent.
We need to ask the question: What are the challenges here and now? A much needed approach to addressing climate change greatly depends on technical responses that reduce the sources of carbon production and on finding alternatives that are less ecologically damaging. As regards natural systems, this includes management of forests, habitats, and agriculture and fisheries options. From the side of human society it involves the use of energy, pollution and waste management, infrastructures, social security and disaster response. Most of the burden lies on consumption patterns and the culture of civil society, as well as on official policy-making and government programs.
The Jesuits of East Asia and the Pacific have selected the issue of “Ecology” as one of their priorities in the region. A concrete project envisioned is a special Workshop that will take place in Cambodia this coming July to delineate ecological programs for Jesuits in the region. From the point of view of Japan, especially after the series of destructive earthquakes and tsunami, the use of nuclear energy that is not directly touched on in this document has emerged as the most important ecological crisis for us here today.